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The Best of 2012: 'Skyfall'

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Skyfall (2012)


Beginning in 1962, the longest-running movie series in the history of cinema has reached its 50th anniversary: the James Bond series. Considered one of the very first film universes (a consistent main character joined by a few recurring supporting characters in the same types of adventures; all created by the same production company), there is no doubt that the James Bond movie series has had an unmeasurable influence on the action genre, European and American cinema and the generations that have grown to admire the stories. Played by seven actors (and a youthful beta version in the form of Barry Nelson) including Sean Connery, George Lazenby, David Niven, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig currently, this legacy was built to last and will continue to last through the ages.

James Bond's 25th feature adventure (out of 23 Eon Productions produced by the Broccoli Family and 2 alternate, but still canonical productions by Charles K. Feldman and Kevin McClory) puts Secret Agent 007 in the ever-potent territory of his past. Skyfall explores similar personal themes discussed in Pierce Brosnan's outings of Goldeneye and The World is Not Enough, but John Logan's final screenplay elaborates far more into the past mistakes of Bond's most trusted mentor, M of MI6 Branch, the chief to UK's intelligence community. Like Goldeneye, this story introduces a rogue agent with a very understandable justification for his anger. Like The World is Not Enough, M confronts someone who wants to hold her accountable for her actions. Unlike these two films, Skyfall combines Bond's understanding of M with her understanding of who he is and his gloomy, tragic past. M's horrific past reveals itself in the form of Raoul Silva, a flamboyant computer hacker who is willing to make MI6 obsolete at the click of his button. The theme of technology versus classic men of action was touched upon in Tomorrow Never Dies, and by extension, it establishes how easy it is to make a mistake based on rushed technological convenience as opposed to patience and improvisation. In other aspects, this initial hacker threat by Silva is merely a stepping stone. The real target has always been M and to teach her the physical horrors he was put through when she expelled him to the enemy. But this effort is what makes Javier Bardem's performance so compelling, and by compelling, we mean completely bonkers insane. Is he doing this purely out of hate or did he once really love her as a motherly figure?

This mother concept was briefly addressed in Daniel Craig's rushed prior installment, Quantum of Solace. The inpenetrable boss has been a true and tough guide to the often troublesome secret agent for the last 17 years throughout the series since Goldeneye; performed with remarkable regality and prose by Oscar-winning Dame Judi Dench. As Bond fights to uncover the truth between these warring former “family members” in the agent circles, the story takes a wonderfully surprising turn in its 3rd act. What exactly is Skyfall and why does the word make Bond quietly crumble? Besides the more direct meaning, this moment is an exact parallel to Bond's own personal tragedy as seen in the classic 1969 film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service headlined by George Lazenby. Bond once lost a love very dear to him and this infamous pain has echoed throughout the series ever since. Through director Sam Mendes' classical eye and Roger Deakins' splendid cinematography (probably the series' best lighting work since Tomorrow Never Dies), Bond's excursions are the nostalgic experiences of a veteran agent. In the form of Daniel Craig, audiences can see how these defining elements of tragedy have impacted him through the strength and vulnerability made readable on his face. The question is how the villain has reacted to them in comparison to the hero. There is a reason he is a hero.